An Often Heard Term
If one did a text search of this blog, they would likely come across the term audience with excessively high frequency. There is another term that is equally important. It has equally far reaching implications and is at least as important. What is it?
Libre software art and design has been lagging for some time. It seems like every other day there are various blog postings regarding why it is failing. At the top of some of those lists are a few recurring thematics. In no particular order, we could likely arrange a loose list such as:
While the above factors are complicated and somewhat intertwined in their various incarnations, I would forward a hypothesis: That as important these factors appear, they are nothing more than purely symptomatic.
- Money. The lack thereof for incentive.
- Numbers. The lack of human resources.
- Talent. The lack of experience and ability with regards to art and design.
They are the manifestations of a much deeper and darker disease. The disease is a lack of artistic and creative culture.
In an attempt to highlight this core issue, we need to look at each of the above three problems in context.
Can't Buy Me Love: Money
There are indeed some things money can't buy. If it were the case, we could likely suggest that Canonical would have had found itself plenty of exposure lauding the artistic and aesthetics of Ubuntu via the likes of NOTCOT, Juxtapoz, and other such creative sites.
But Canonical is small perhaps? Granted. So let's set our aims higher. How about the 200 billion dollar monkey known as Microsoft? Ask yourself if Microsoft would love to be known as the aesthetic art and design monster in computing. They aren't. And yet they have a veritable bottomless well of income to tap.
What about General Motors or Ford? What price do you think they would pay to be immediately associated with luxury, quality, and like terms? I'd bet a hefty sum. Again though, they are often trumped by the likes of the staple names such as BMW. Certainly Ford could afford to hire anyone they want?
Money, in the end, is no solution. In fact, if you look to all of the recent hubbabaloo about the Canonical design team, we should not forget that each and every bit of the presentation thus far was professionally created. That's right, paid for. The bleak and dismal CD / DVD covers? Paid for. The wash of wonderfully pablumy bland default wallpapers? Paid for. That box design of pure awesomeness you desperately wanted to buy at BestBuy? Paid for. Ubuntu isn't the only sinner here, as there is a long lineage of Libre companies that foot the bill for absolutely abhorrent work.
Money cannot purchase creative and artistic insight or the value of appreciating it when it is presented.
No Army: Numbers
It takes a vast number of people to do all of this art and design stuff doesn't it? Of course it does, and while it is entirely foolish to argue that one could create a colossal body of work with only a handful of people, numbers don't tell the whole story.
If we look at some of the fundamental issues with the aforementioned companies such as Microsoft, we could speculate that in fact the size of the company has an adverse effect on their ability to change. Microsoft is a behemoth. It moves at a glacial pace. Even if it wanted to, Microsoft couldn't change.
Its genetic disposition has been laid out ages ago and meanders along the tragic vector. Every single additional person that becomes a part of that culture, in a roundabout fashion, becomes part of the problem as they ethically support the status quo.
It is only the smallest and darkest corner that is permitted to churn out ballsy typographic explosions as seen in the Zune HD's music browser, and even then, there must be a mountain of detractors along the way.
With tremendous numbers comes a distinct loss of agility.
Plentiful Picassos and Multiple Mozarts: Talent
How many times have we come across the "If only we had talented and trained artists and designers, then we would be complete!"
Returning to the above theme, play a simple mental game. Whether you love them or hate them, the impact of a Chris Bangle or a Shigeru Miyamoto cannot be ignored. The brilliance of those types of personalities have led their companies into the stratosphere. The darlings that so many seek to be.
Now let's pretend for a moment that Ford or Hyundai sought out Chris Bangle or that ValuSoft wanted to crank out a hit game and was chomping at the bit for Shigeru Miyamoto. What is the percentage chance of their success to enlist those talents?
I would be so bold as to speculate that even if a company offered the company itself as stock options to some of those personalities, they would not be able to land the individuals.
Those types of personalities are the culmination of opinion and judgement. That opinion and judgement is imprinted upon each and every decision they make and what cultures they choose to become a part of.
Just as the history, tradition, and culture of a big league sports team impacts the quality of players that will play for them, so too does the history, tradition, and culture of a company impacts the creative minds it can attract.
Full Circle Back to Culture
It becomes a self-perpetuating loop. Love, hate, or apathy, the culture will have a direct influence on future growth. With love comes greater numbers of similar minds. With hate comes the repulsion of a given audience. With apathy, yet another audience seeks out an alternative.
Our current Libre culture is aesthetically, artistically, and creatively bankrupt. As such, we are caught in a traumatic loop. With each passing day we grow our culture slowly in the exact same direction, ever away from the vital lifeblood we fundamentally require.
Given our current trajectory, no amount of money will buy us a solution, no quantity of people will right the ship, and no talent will magically appear on our horizons. There is even perhaps more bleakness in accepting that the size of a culture adversely affects its agility to change.
The next generation of Chris Bangles, Shigeru Miyamotos, William Gibsons, Michelangelos, and Jonathan Ives will choose a culture to belong to. Will it be ours?
The Tides of Change
Is there anything we can do to challenge the current trending and shift the course?
I am quite passionate in believing that we could effect a change. It, as the old cliché goes, starts with you.
The limited number of people that read this blog are, I am compelled to believe, of a different ilk. You tend to be passionate, articulate, and pretty darn astute with regards to the common topics featured here.
As a culture, we need you to stay here. We need you, despite your tendency to be quiet, to speak up. We need to you, and others like you, to generate gravity. We need you to become part of a core that forms a firm and unyielding presence. How might we do this a little more effectively?
- Get more passionate. Cultivate a culture that enjoys an intellectual exploration of art, design, presence, aesthetics, and like areas. Counter the DONOTWANTS and ZOMGAWESOMES with insight and introspect. Don't explore the trivial exteriors but rather the complex issues surrounding the whys or why nots. Share your thoughts using microblogs or other shares.
- Use meaningful examinations. The various toxic phrases that riddle Libre culture abound. What does usability mean? For whom? What is a human interface guideline in the context of a culture that spans diverse and eclectic societies? What is beautiful in that context? What is ugly? A "Human Cooking Guideline" is utterly ridiculous, so why is a "Human Interface Guideline" even given a straight face?
- Share yourself and your culture. Language and cultural chasms impede our knowledge and understanding. Many of you are from different cultures. Celebrate and educate others with regards to your own cultural art and design heritage. Why is something the way it is? Why does a particular colour bear meaning? Are there subtle trends and currents in your contemporary culture that would not be understood without context? We should celebrate and highlight differences, not attempt to water them down to some sort of Utopian wash of grey.
- Group in the name of gravity. Let's face it, there isn't a colossal number of people like you. Grouping together and forming a community around a shared set of ideals is at the foundation of Libre software, so why should it be any different for Libre software art, design, and aesthetics? Speak up. Speak out. Stick together.
- Water the seeds you want. If you stumble across someone floating out in the blogsphere that seems to share your passion for art and design and happens to also cross over into Libre software, show your appreciation. If we don't do that we run the risk of forever losing them. Extend an email. Drop a reply. Given our current bias of dysfunction regarding all things creative, we must exert extra effort to grow the numbers.
While all of this might seem like a pipe dream, consider the alternative if we should fail. Consider a culture that continues down this bleak path. Consider our likelihood of impacting future generations. Consider the health and welfare of Libre software itself if we cannot attract the vastly important and influential minds of tomorrow.
Small in number but deep in influence.
In short, we need more people like you.
Thank you all for reading...